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Chair comments on Liam Fox announcement on UK's good schedule at WTO

26 October 2018

Chair of the International Trade Committee, Angus MacNeil MP, has issued the following statement in response to the announcement yesterday that the UK's good schedule at the WTO has been objected to:

Liam Fox was hoping for a quick and easy process to establish the terms of the UK's WTO membership before Brexit takes place. When he gave evidence to my committee in July, Dr Fox assured me that this was all going fine. But his plan is now in tatters after the UK's proposed WTO goods schedules faced formal objections from some 20 countries, including the USA, China, Australia and New Zealand.

As a result, the Government will have to undertake lengthy bilateral negotiations with each of those countries and there is no chance the matter will be resolved in time for Brexit, which is now just five months away.

In addition, the Government still has yet to even begin the formal certification process for our services schedules at the WTO.

From Brexit day, the UK is bound to be operating on uncertified schedules. Dr Fox tries to present this as a mere technicality, but it presents a number of potential problems for the Government. It's likely to take years to resolve this issue – and if any of the objections are upheld at the end of that process, the UK Government will be liable to pay compensation for any material losses that have been sustained under the uncertified schedules.

More fundamentally, our WTO schedules form the “baseline” for the UK's negotiations with other countries on Free Trade Agreements – of which Dr Fox hopes to conclude a great many very soon after Brexit Day. The question now is: will other countries want to negotiate trade deals with us when our baseline still hasn't been fixed?

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